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Survivor speaks out in documentary about abuse by former teacher John Owen

06 Apr 2021 3 minute read
Cadw Cyfrinach

A survivor who was abused by former teacher John Owen has spoken about the experience in a new documentary.

The programme, John Owen: Cadw Cyfrinach (Keeping a Secret) is on S4C on Wednesday 7 April at 9pm.

The former Ysgol Rhydfelen pupil, where John Owen was a teacher between 1977 and 1992, speaks on camera for the first time about being groomed.

John Owen killed himself in 2001 before standing trial for the sexual assault of former pupils, which led to the Clywch inquiry in 2004, an investigation by Peter Clarke, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales at the time.

The report found that no-one who heard the evidence in the inquiry would doubt that John Owen was guilty of acts of gross sexual indecency against some pupils at Ysgol Rhydfelen.

It notes also that the evidence had showed that Mr Owen, in all probability, had abused pupils under his care over a number of years.

John Owen also scripted and produced a drama series for young people Pam Fi Duw (Why Me God) for S4C between 1997 and 2002.

The documentary includes interviews with Pam Fi Duw actors and the reporter Eifion Glyn, who investigated the story.

It is now nearly 20 years since John Owen killed himself in a caravan in Porthcawl before he was due to appear at his trial in Cardiff Crown Court.

‘My heart would sink’

The survivor said: “He would call me over to his office to discuss a script or a speech I was working on. He would lock the door and pull the zip of my trousers down. My heart would sink because I knew what was coming next.”

“John Owen started grooming me at a very young age when I first started at Ysgol Rhydfelen.

“I didn’t know that the trap I was in was going to turn so sinister. I enjoyed performing, singing reciting and competing – I remember thinking – right, I must get him to notice me.

“He was an incredibly charismatic man and you wanted him to praise you.” he said

Ysgol Rhydfelen was known for producing high quality shows which pupils from nearby schools would regularly travel to see.

The survivor added: “We worked hard in those shows. John Owen always insisted upon loyalty from you. If you weren’t 100 per cent with him – you were against him and you were the enemy.

“That was one of the ways he manipulated us. He could help me with what I wanted in my life and I had to make that bargain with the devil.”

“And when all the sexual abuse started, I’d just switch off, and try and take myself to another place.

“He was a man who gave me a lot of advice, there was a very caring and kind side to him and he could get some great work out of me.”

“Emotionally, I am still angry with him. I blame him for injuring me but I can also make excuses for him and to see him as a victim.”

“The night we heard that John Owen had killed himself, we all went for a drink. At last, the whole thing was over.”

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